Would you really be happier if you were better looking?

Posted on February 20, 2016

We live in a media culture that tells us being good looking is a virtual prerequisite for a happy life, but it would make sense that the true importance of our physical attractiveness, like other attributes, is subject to the focussing illusion.

To test this idea, Lukasz Kaczmarek and colleagues at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland set up a simple experiment asking 97 students to take two questionnaires measuring their life satisfaction (they rated their agreement with statements such as “the conditions of my life are excellent”) and "body satisfaction" (this involved rating whether they were pleased or not with various aspects of their appearance, including their face, physical build and body parts). Crucially, as in the previous research on the focusing illusion, the ordering of the questionnaires was randomised – half the participants started by rating their faces and bodies, the other half began by rating their life in general.

The results were exactly as expected: people with more confidence in their looks tended to be somewhat happier than those who thought they were less beautiful (body satisfaction explained about 19 per cent of the variation in life satisfaction overall) but only if they took the body satisfaction survey first, not second. Otherwise, the link between body satisfaction and life satisfaction was very weak.

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Category(s):Self-Confidence, Self-Doubt, Self-Esteem, Self-Love

Source material from British Psychological Society

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